Democrats revive Indiana bridge authority plan-WEB ONLY

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Democrats in the Indiana House have revived the idea of
creating an Indiana bridge authority that would negotiate with Kentucky for
major Ohio River bridge projects linking the two states.

Democrats included language creating the bridge authority in their one-year
spending plan introduced Thursday that’s being considered in the General
Assembly’s special session.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has said the language is unnecessary and that his office
has all the authority it needs to work with Kentucky officials on the

“This would add a layer of bureaucracy that would complicate the process,”
said Daniels’ press secretary, Jane Jankowski.

The bridge authority concept died in the Senate earlier this year, but
majority House Democrats have revived it in their spending plan, which was
debated Friday by the Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. Steve Stemler (D-Jeffersonville) said he drafted the original bill
because he believes the commission could expedite talks with Kentucky about
financing and coordinating the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.

That project would create spans across the Ohio River in downtown Louisville
and eastern Jefferson County, Ky., along with a redesigned Spaghetti Junction.
Those projects are expected to cost Kentucky $2.9 billion and Indiana about $1.2

Stemler also has pushed for the language to be in Indiana’s next state

“This is the single biggest economic development issue in southeastern
Indiana,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be a catalyst for the states coming

Kentucky lawmakers will go into their own special session next week and will
consider proposals to create a bridge authority to oversee the project and
negotiate with Indiana.

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear unveiled a plan that essentially
would aid the Louisville-area bridges project and a proposed Interstate 69 span
near Henderson by creating separate authorities with the ability to impose tolls
to help pay for the projects.

Kentucky lawmakers have been considering a plan that would create one
authority to oversee funding for a number of the state’s larger transportation

Indiana’s share of funding for the bridges project is largely coming from the
lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

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